Little Chef for sale: Business timeline

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Little chef, Heston blumenthal

Re-cheffle: Little Chef's price tag is expected to be in the tens of millions of pounds
Re-cheffle: Little Chef's price tag is expected to be in the tens of millions of pounds
Roadside restaurant chain Little Chef has been put up for sale, as turnaround firm RCapital – which bought the business out of administration in 2007 – claims ‘it’s time to explore the next phase for the foodservice operator’.

The sale is expected to fetch tens of millions of pounds with potential buyers including Starbucks and Costa Coffee as well as service station operators such as Welcome Break and Moto.

RCapital, which has appointed KPMG to find a buyer, said in a statement: “The Little Chef estate is one of the biggest quality estates to come to market in recent years.

“Over the last six years, RCapital has successfully completed an operational turnaround and financial restructuring, which has repositioned the business and brought the group of companies back into profitability.  

“The move was part of a long-term critical rebuild strategy to create consistently profitable sites against the backdrop of one of the worst recessions in living memory.”

Little Chef opened its first site in Reading in 1958 and by the 1980s had more than 230 restaurants across the UK. It is made up of 83 sites across Britain’s A-roads from Devon to Scotland, employing 1100 staff and serving more than 6m customers annually.

BigHospitality’s business timeline: Little Chef

2007 -​ Little Chef sold 196 of its 234 restaurant to R Capital for less than £10m, the same afternoon that it fell into administration.

Heston Blumenthal got on-board with his TV show, 'Big Chef takes on Little Chef'

March 2008 –​Plans to revamp the brand began and Triple-Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal took on the challenge of transforming the roadside diner into a quality dining spot in a new series which was aired on Channel 4.

November 2008 -​The Popham branch of Little Chef was given the Blumenthal treatment, with braised ox cheeks and organic beef burgers going on the menu.

July 2009 -​The new-style Little Chef was set to be introduced at branches in York and Kettering as part of a planned rollout across the 175-strong estate.

August 2009 -​The Little Chef in Popham was given a score of 2/10 in the 2010 Good Food Guide.

April 2010 -​Little Chef boss Ian Pegler, the man who had brought in Blumenthal to reinvent the business, left the company.

November 03 2011 –​Theroadside restaurant chain announced plans to install electric vehicle chargers at all 161 of its sites across the UK as part of plans to boost the brand.

November 11 2011 –​The business announced it would sell off 19 of its sites after conducting a full review of its estate.

The new signage featured energy-efficient illuminated lighting and digitally-printed ceiling tiles

November 29 2011 – ​A new range of internal and external signage was unveiled and would be implemented across all of Little Chefs then-162 sites over the next four years.

January 2012 -​Little Chef announced it would be closing 67 of its 161 sites across the UK leading to the losses of up to 600 jobs.

May 2012 –​The businesss brought in external agencies to manage operations and its marketing and PR across the group following chairman Graham Sims’ restructure of the business.

This former Little Chef site in Liphook, Hampshire is now home to the first Starbucks franchise in the UK

February 07 2013 -​Coffee chain Starbucks opened its first UK site under franchise on the site of a former Little Chef restaurant in Hampshire.

February 26 2013 -​ Petrol forecourt operator EuroGarages took on the leases of five former Little Chef sites for conversion to coffee shops under a licensing arrangement with Starbucks.

April 2013 – ​Little Chef is up for sale.

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1 comment

Little Chef - a missed opportunity

Posted by Barbapapa,

As a consumer, I would hate for Little Chefs to be replaced with Starbucks et al. Let's have some innovation guys and have a new, healthier, sexier roadside offering for a change. Actually, whilst I;'m not sure about the sexier bit, wouldn't something like Giraffe fit the bill?

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